Salty life of an Oceanlover – my journey of becoming a PADI Divemaster
Oh to endure the brittle, salty hair, peeling sunburnt skin and pulling yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn every morning; what person in their right mind would travel halfway around the world to subject themselves to such torture on a daily basis? Me! And anyone else in their right mind too. The struggle I endured for getting my Dive Masters at Ocean Lovers is nothing compared to the experience, growth and love I got to surround myself with every day. But let’s start at the beginning. The one where you were wondering how I got here in the first place.
Ireland is beautiful, and I have been fortunate enough to grown up around an abundance of nature. With that, I have always had a thirst to chase and hunt down such harmonious beauties elsewhere. From my early days, every time I got the chance, I travelled. All across Ireland, most of Europe, some of Africa and the US, and my extensive travels of South East Asia. So, when my bank account didn’t look so bleak and miserable again, there was no doubt in my mind that the next frontier I wanted to explore was South America.
Well, where to go? Diving was something I explored a little of on my travels in SEA, and growing up a water rat in the little lake by my house, I fell in love with it. There’s a world we are faced with every day. Whether that world is in a city, a small town, or the untouched countryside. It all belongs to the one world. But the world under the water? That is a different place entirely. And from the moment I began planning my next trip, that was the world I wanted to dive straight back into.
Getting my Dive Master’s was the logical next step after my Open Water and Advanced Open Water courses I had the pleasure of taking in SEA. And that, before anything else, was what I wanted to do. Once I did a bit of research on the best places to dive in South America, it wasn’t long before Colombia seemed like the perfect destination. A huge country known for it’s beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes and passionate people; the decision to do my Dive Masters in the sunny Caribbean was made and my dreams of tasting the salty sea drove me through my prowling research of “what next?”
Hundreds of posts, recommendations and blogs by diving enthusiasts, diving professionals and even just first time divers were read and re-read. The small fishing village of Taganga was mentioned again and again, and before I applied for shots and vaccines or rummaged behind the couch for money to pay for flights, I emailed every dive school in Taganga.
If you haven’t already guessed by now, I can be pedantic about my travel decisions; so to those diving schools that I emailed my THREE pages of questions and queries, I apologise here and now. But I must also thank you. Because of all the dive schools (and as small a town as Taganga is, it has quite a few) Lisi in Ocean Lovers was one of the few that responded to me, and indeed, she was the only one that answered all my questions. She went above and beyond in our email correspondence with regard to the abundance of information she provided of Taganga, the dive school and the course. If I had multiple responses from the other dive schools from my essay of queries, I would have chosen Ocean Lovers thanks to Lisi’s dedication and commitment.
But I’m waffling on, and I haven’t even jumped into the water yet!
I travelled straight to Taganga from Ireland and once the jet lag wore off after a couple of days, I was introduced to all the fantastic and friendly members of the staff in Ocean Lovers. There were a couple of other Dive Master students including Roberta, who became a close friend to me and, as a more experienced diver, a great support and sounding board for all my worries and woes. There was no messing about, I was straight in the water on the first day and after a year of not diving, my love for that underworld of beauty and mystery was immediately reignited.
It didn’t take long before I got into the routine of being a full-time diver. Early morning start at the dive shop where I would help prepare equipment and lunch for the morning dives. I would welcome all new divers into the shop, helping them prepare for their Fun Dives or Open Water courses. Bring all tanks and equipment down to the beach which was a mere 75 yards from the dive school. And hop on Ocean Lovers boat that can accommodate 20 divers to go out to the stunning dive sites that Tayrona National Park offer which were located within 15 minutes from the beach.
In exchange for my hard work, I got to spend 40 glorious minutes under the sea… twice! After a quick lunch on one of the isolated beaches of Isla de la Aguja, we would have a second dive before returning to the shop. My assistance was put where it was needed that day. Perhaps I would be helping one of the instructors teach and develop their diving students on their courses, perhaps I would be doing the different diving exercises that are required to complete my course, or perhaps just tagging along on a Fun Dive where I could witness and partake in the job I was qualifying myself for. And whichever my task that day, I got to do it in the sea surrounded by the beautiful and diverse wildlife that is in Taganga, not to mention the sensational coral that inhabits those blue, warm waters of the Caribbean.
Upon getting back to the shop where all divers would talk and share of their dives and the majestic sights they got to see, I would help clean and put away equipment, help with general upkeep of the shop and accommodate the customers or students. On a busy day, I would have time for lunch before hopping on the boat and getting back onto the water to do it all over again! If not, I got to spend my afternoons studying and expanding my diving knowledge. Come evening time, there may be a night dive where I got to experience the beauty of the underworld all over again and from a completely different perspective. A terrifying experience being surrounded by the unknown. But doing it with a group of eager, experienced and passionate staff, the fear fades away with the moon lit waves. How to end the day? A couple of cool beers with the Ocean Lovers family.
And… wash, rinse, repeat. This was my routine almost every day for a few months on the sandy shore of North Colombia. So, who would want to deal with salty, brittle hair; red, raw skin from the unforgiven sun; or aches and pains getting up at the crack of dawn each morning? ME! And I would do it all over again and again.
Lisi not only facilitated my Dive Master course materials and provided time and space for me to study. Ocean Lovers did not just teach me to become a better and safe diver. And Taganga did not just show me a part of the world I had not witnessed. Lisi and Ocean Lovers were a family that accepted me as one of their own. They showed me true and generous patience and I learned more from them in those few months than I could have ever hoped to even imagine.
Lisi, thank you for your time, guidance and friendship. Desi, thank you for the constant joy, song and laughter you brought to each and every dive. Simon for his abundance of knowledge and patience. Luis for his wholesome spirit. Yoni for his energetic and infectious smile. Ada for her wacky and enjoyable company. Keisy for her cheeky giggles. Chiara for her insight and devotion. The Captains of heart and soul, Cheo and Nene. And Michu, the real boss of Ocean Lovers. James, Adela, Esteban, Thor and the so many other members of the Ocean Lovers family that I got to know, care and love so much. I hope you receive my warm thoughts and wishes.
Thinking of doing a Dive Master course with Ocean Lovers? You would be a fool not to!